By Camilla Royle
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Elite Squad 2

This article is over 10 years, 1 months old
Issue 364

Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within broke records when it was released in Brazil in 2010. It was the country’s highest grossing film ever and one of the most successful Latin American films ever made.

Like the first film, The Enemy Within focuses on the BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) – the special unit within the Rio de Janeiro military police that controls the illegal drugs trade. In the opening scenes a fight breaks out among armed drug cartels in prison. One of the gang leaders, Beirada, carries out an extremely violent assassination of one of his rivals. Human rights NGO leader Fraga goes into the prison to try to reason with the prisoners and gain their trust – but he is followed by BOPE officers who shoot Beirada dead.

The film centres on the captain of the BOPE squad, Nascimento, who is promoted after the prison shooting and becomes increasingly embroiled in a web of corruption involving different sections of the police and politicians at every level.

The BOPE are a real organisation. As depicted in the film they wear black uniforms, have a skull with crossed guns as a logo, drive armoured vehicles and carry assault rifles. The film demonstrates how they are “justified” – one rabid TV presenter plays on the need for public protection by arguing that the streets would be taken over without a strong police presence. The (mostly black) inhabitants of the favelas – Rio’s slums – are repeatedly referred to as “scumbags”. They are seen as a group of people with no history, no voice and no morals who will inevitably kill each other and everyone else unless the police stop them.

In later scenes the BOPE are seen using helicopters to chase drug dealers, firing on the roofs of slum houses in a favela with Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. Many of the houses are decorated with the blue, green and yellow colours of the Brazilian flag. The traditions that help forge national identity, such as the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, feature throughout the film.

The original Elite Squad film was based on a book written by sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains. It was criticised as glamourising the military police and was even described as fascist. It would be harder to make these criticisms of the sequel as Nascimento starts to question the state violence and his role in it. The director of both films, Jose Padilha, has argued that the police are corrupt because of the “rules of the social game they are playing”. However, he is reluctant to blame any police officers for their actions, arguing instead that the police need to be better paid and educated in human rights.

Whether or not it was the intention of the writers, the film is an engaging critique of the state and its ability to control and repress its citizens.

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